Your immune system is one of the most important parts of your body. It’s in charge of helping you fight off various illnesses and harmful bacteria. In 2020, it’s crucial that we all maintain excellent immunity as we try to collectively recover from COVID-19.
However, many folks want to boost their immunity without taking extra drugs or synthetic supplements. Thankfully, there are plenty of natural ways you can boost your immunity without having to take medicine.
This might seem obvious, but one of the best ways you might boost your immunity1 is just getting enough sleep every night. Unfortunately, Americans (and many other people in Western countries) regularly forgo sleep in favor of other activities or work.
Adults need an average of 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. While there might be a few outliers here and there, chances are that your body is one of the majority group. There’s tons of evidence to suggest that your immune system and overall bodily health dramatically drops whenever you get fewer than six hours of sleep for multiple nights in a row.
In the short term, sleep deprivation can affect your memory, mental acuity, and mood. Suffice it to say that sleep is a big deal and you should always try to get over seven hours of each night.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep, it helps to try to lay down at the same time every night and avoid screens (like the ones on your phone or computer) for at least an hour before bed. This prevents harmful blue light from triggering hormonal releases in your brain that can make it more difficult for your body to enter the first sleep cycle.
While meditation itself can’t magically fight off infection, it can relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can contribute to poor immune system health2. Stress in the long-term, can cause several imbalances in the function of your immune system cells (like white blood cells) and also promotes inflammation across the body.
Furthermore, prolonged psychological stress can tire you out, lead to poor decision-making and result in an unraveling of all your immune-boosting efforts so far.
Meditation is one of the best ways you might be able to manage your stress and stay relaxed, especially since you might be cooped up during lockdown.
It’s common knowledge that moderate exercise is needed not only for general bodily health but for your mood’s stability. But moderate exercise may also boost your immune system to great effect.
In fact, some studies show3 that even just one session of moderate exercise can improve the efficiency of various vaccines if you have a compromised immune system. This makes exercise even more important if you want to shore up your body’s defenses against infection.
What counts as moderate exercise? You don’t have to work up a terrible sweat at the gym. You can do many regular activities and have them “count” as your exercise for the day. These include biking, jogging, swimming, or even brisk walking. You can also hike or do a light aerobic workout from the comfort of your own home.
All told, you should target around the 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week to positively impact your immune system.
4. Stay Hydrated
While drinking enough water won’t protect you from various viruses or harmful bacteria, it does prevent your body from entering a dehydrated state. When you’re dehydrated, your body is at a lower energy level and your immune system is not as effective.
Dehydration can cause various headaches and hinder your body in lots of other ways. Some organs can suffer negative side effects as a result of dehydration. For instance, your heart and kidney functions can suffer if you’re dehydrated4.
When you’re trying to rehydrate, water is your best bet. But if you want something that does have some flavor, tea or some juices that are low in sugar can also be effective.
An easy way to know if you are properly hydrated? Your urine should be a pale yellow in color.
5. Eat Healthy Foods
Eating healthier foods is a great way to both improve your health and boost your immune system.
Whole foods contain key nutrients and vitamins that your body needs to repair damage and maintain a strong immune system over the long-term. They also contain antioxidants that can decrease inflammation and combat unstable free radicals.
The fiber found in various whole foods feed the gut microbiome5 which is a contributing factor to your immune system. Additionally, healthy foods like fruits and vegetables contain vitamins C and D: critical compounds for general immune system health and recovery.
6. Vitamins and Probiotics
Adults looking to boost their immune system should make sure to take supplements or eat foods that contain sources of vitamins C, D, and E. These three vitamins6 are particularly necessary for good immune system function.
For instance, vitamin D can help modulate inflammation and contraction in various tissues. Vitamin C may help reduce the duration of the common cold and provides a “boost” to your immune system. Vitamin E can lower mast cell activation and provide ancillary immune system benefits.
Probiotics are also great ancillary supplements you should take if you want to maintain a strong immune system. Probiotics boost your gut's microbiome, which is a collection of healthy bacteria that can affect your overall bodily health and your digestive efficiency. Your microbiome is responsible for getting rid of bacteria and potentially harmful pathogens you might ingest.
Taking probiotics in conjunction with vitamins has the potential to improve your body dramatically and holistically. Combined, both elements can boost your immune system and make it that much more difficult for any kind of infection or disease to take hold.
1. Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold, 2015 Sep 1;38(9):1353-9. doi: 10.5665/sleep.4968
2. Effects of Stress on Immune Function: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful, 2014 May;58(2-3):193-210. doi: 10.1007/s12026-014-8517-0
3. Exercise and the Regulation of Immune Functions, 015;135:355-80. doi: 10.1016/bs.pmbts.2015.08.001. Epub 2015 Sep 5
4. Water, Hydration and Health, 2011 Aug 1
5. Dietary Fiber and Prebiotics and the Gastrointestinal Microbiota, 2017 Mar 4;8(2):172-184. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2017.1290756. Epub 2017 Feb 6
6. Role of Vitamins D, E and C in Immunity and Inflammation, Apr-Jun 2013;27(2):291-5.